Memory impairment in schizophrenia:
perspectives from psychopathology and pharmacotherapy

Stip E
Centre de recherche Fernand-Seguin,
Hopital Louis-H Lafontaine,
Montreal, Quebec
Can J Psychiatry 1996 Oct; 41(8 Suppl 2):S27-34


OBJECTIVE: To describe the concept of memory impairment in schizophrenia and the clinical implications of this concept in terms of patient assessment and neuroleptic drug use. METHOD: Narrative literature review. RESULTS: Individuals suffering from schizophrenia normally exhibit some degree of memory impairment. Recent work in psychopathology indicates that the impairment is comprehensive, involving the sensory, short-term, and long-term memory stores. Memory impairment appears to be a primary symptom of the disease, and its underlying causes are likely organic. A number of medications, however (for example, traditional neuroleptics and drugs that have pronounced anticholinergic activity), may cause or exacerbate impairment. In particular, anticholinergic agents used to treat extrapyramidal symptoms, a common complication of neuroleptic drugs, appear to have a deleterious effect on memory. CONCLUSIONS: Memory impairment is an important consideration in the clinical assessment and management of patients with schizophrenia. The use of atypical antipsychotics like risperidone appears to have no impact on memory function; because risperidone is associated with a low incidence of extrapyramidal side effects, it can obviate the need for anticholinergic medications-thus offering greater hope of nondebilitative intervention. The advent of medications that are safer (on cognition) could also lead to generally better outcomes by facilitating compliance with drug regimens and rehabilitation programs.
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